Vela Struggles, Diaby and Sagna Impressive On Opening Day

As expected, Mexico provided an exciting start to the World Cup. It was a shame that they couldn’t convert their early dominance into a lead and eventually to points. South Africa came up with a dogged and disciplined performance and full marks to them for maintaining the proud home nations’ record of not losing the opening game.

Funnily enough, this game had an uncanny resemblance to many of our games from the last season. I half expected Aguirre to say “We were not sharp enough” in his post match interview! I think more than anything, Mexico missed a top quality central striker as Franco missed some good chances and didn’t contribute much.

I’m really hoping Vela will have a big tournament. He had a bright start to the game and got some good touches and runs into the box. The highlight of his day was, guess what, a delightful chip that set Franco free on goal only for the striker to be thwarted by a good save. He also scored a decent goal but, for once, bad goalkeeping saved the hosts as the keeper, who came and flapped, crossed Vela and that resulted in the off-side call! Kudos to the linesman for getting it right and shame on the commentators for criticizing a perfectly valid decision.

All in all I wouldn’t want to be too critical of the youngster as all Mexico players struggled to create an impact. They also lacked a central midfielder who could pull the strings and spread some accurate passes. Too many of their critical passes, especially to wide players, went long. Interestingly, United’s latest recruit, Javier Hernandez, didn’t really impress when he came on for Franco.

South Africa had some impressive players. Their front three in particular (Tshabalala, Mphela, Modise) were strong, fast and quite skilful. I’ll keep an eye out for them in the rest of the games and if they maintain their performances, there is a good chance offers from Europe will start flooding in.

In the second game of the day we had two players starting for France (leaving out Gallas). Domenech’s team were, as expected, rather lacklustre and lacked cohesion. Ribery, Gourcuff and Govou were big disappointments and I thought Diaby did a good job in the midfield, especially in the first half.

The lanky Frenchman rode a number of challenges and played some good passes. It’s a shame the attacking players never took full advantage of his work. He was a bit more subdued in the second half but recovered in the final minutes. Sadly, that was not good enough for France.

Sagna too had a good game. He put in four or five decent crosses into the box and both Anelka and Henry could have done better when Sagna found them in the box. I did feel that Sagna could have gone forward a bit more, perhaps this was a tactical decision by the manager to hold him back and Uruguay have a lethal strike partnership.

Overall, most of the French attacks originated from the left and the predictability made it easier for Uruguay. Again this was quite similar to some Arsenal games when we don’t get our attacking game flowing.

I think Sagna and Diaby will be crucial players for Domenech as his established stars look disinterested and disjointed.

There are no Arsenal players in action tomorrow but I’m really looking forward to the Argentina V Nigeria and the England V US games. I don’t think Maradona will make a great manager but it will be interesting to see how his team starts off. And since I’m based in the US, I’m also looking forward to a strong tactical display from Bob Bradley’s team against an overrated English side.

Enjoy the games wherever you watch them.

P.S. Did anyone else feel the atmosphere in both games was exhilarating and much better than the Premiership and Champions League games?

10 Responses to Vela Struggles, Diaby and Sagna Impressive On Opening Day

  1. Top Gunn says:

    First??? Hope so!
    Quite a vivid and perfect analysis of both games. I was disappointed with Gourcoff {spelling ?} He is no where near filling fab4 shoes. Diaby really surprised me I must add..sagna, I expected it. comment! Anelka was a waste of space..and don’t you just wish Evra played for Arsenal?

    Also, the atmosphere in both games were a blast! good work Africa.

  2. Top Gunn says:


  3. SomeRandomGunner says:

    I also felt the Mexican side is too similar to arsenal. They were really good going forward and wanted to pass the ball into goal and very vulnerable to counter attack. I was very impressed by Dos santos and carlos Vela did very nice things, and should have hit the target instead of passing to nobody. But could not understand the offside decision there was a south african on the line behind Vela right ?

  4. Phil23 says:

    To be onside there must be two players in between the attacking player and the goal. Normally thats a defender and the keeper but this time there was no keeper. The decision was perfectly valid. I felt like Vela had a good game and although he has much fewer touches than Dos Santos I felt the commentators made too much of his contribution. He was left open pretty much all game and he didn’t link up with vela nearly enough. (i’m obviously bias) I also noted that Hernandez was average which was pleasing to see. I was also extremely disappointed that Marquez scored the equalizer. I will spend this world cup cheering just as hard against Barcelona players as I do for the Arsenal players and I hope I am not alone in doing that! Great to see that Dominech came to his senses and started Diaby. If he starts every game we will receive a much more confident (and hopefully more consistent) player than what we sent away.

  5. munala says:

    u r goin nuts,
    Vela’s goal was offside ?
    Yet there was a bafana player rooted 2 da goal post ?

  6. Akash says:

    The goalkeeper was in front of VELA ……….so the goal was considered as offside …dats the fifa rule….

    DIABY was sensational…wish he could play that way 4 ARSENAL !!!!

  7. errrr says:

    many people do not know the offside rule. As Phil23 said, there must be TWO players (not one) between the attacker and the goal.

    Most of the time the keeper is one of the players, so there should be another player.

  8. desigunner says:

    The offside law uses the term “second last opponent” Normally the goalkeeper is the last opponent so at least one more defender is considered as second last opponent.

    In this particular case, as explained by others, the keeper was not between Vela and the goal line as he came out to punch the ball. So the man on the line was the last defender and there was no “second last opponent” and hence it was a valid offside call.

  9. Yunusa okonkwo says:

    I actually thought it was not an offside but now i knows better

  10. africangooner says:

    Good and unbiased analysis of both matches.Great atmosphere within the stadia which was equally exciting outside the stadia all over South Africa. I concur to the Three Lions being an overrated side…will like to see the US spring up a surprise like they did to Spain at the Confed

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